Recently, it was revealed that the McCarran International Airport would be renamed (to the support of many Las Vegas residents), and it’s thanks to Billy Walters, along with his wife Susan.
So, who is Billy Walters? For those who are unfamiliar, Walters is a retired professional gambler, who has made a big name for himself over the years both in and outside the scope of his career.
Growing up, Walters didn’t quite have the easiest arrangement in the books. In fact, his upbringing had been difficult in a number of ways. Walters grew up in poverty, and his father had passed when he was just an infant. His mother’s alcoholism only complicated the situation further, leading Walters to be raised by his grandmother, without indoor plumbing and running water.
Given his upbringing, Walters has devoted a good portion of his career to giving back. As someone who has been so dedicated to philanthropy, it’s no surprise that Walters has befriended Harry Reid, the former Nevada Democratic senator.
Reid is a “personal friend,” in Walters’ own words. He also described Reid as a “man of integrity,” and this is exactly why Walters is using his donation to help rename the McCarran International Airport after Reid, rather than the infamously anti-Semitic Pat McCarran. Really, this rebranding was a long time coming.
About Harry Reid: Behind the Renaming Effort
In particular, Harry Reid was a strong candidate for the airport’s rebranding. Over the lengthy course of his career in office, U.S. Sen. Reid has had an enormous charitable impact on the people of Nevada.
Notably, Reid is an avid supporter of Opportunity Village. This nonprofit organization is based in Las Vegas and is dedicated to offering vocational training, employment, and recreational opportunities to those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
This hits close to home for Walters, given his own experience raising and caring for his son. At the age of seven, Walters’ son underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor. However, the surgery resulted in brain damage. Due to these complications, Walters’ son, who is now an adult, has only a limited ability to care for himself.
According to Susan Walters, “We didn’t hesitate to show our gratitude when we learned of the privately funded rebranding effort.”
Walters has made quite a contribution to Opportunity Village himself over the years. He has advocated for and supported the charity for over two decades. In that time, Walters has managed to raise a remarkable fifty million dollars for the nonprofit. He also encourages all of his professional contacts, whether they’re at Las Vegas casinos, hotels, or resorts, to employ the clients of Opportunity Village.
Not only that, but Reid is an individual who puts genuine passion and effort into all that he does. This is another characteristic that Walters admires. Reid’s parents were a high school dropout and a miner, and he wasn’t born into the coziest conditions to grow up in, much like Walters, himself. In fact, according to Walters, “As someone who also grew up in less-than-ideal conditions, I can appreciate the grit and determination it took for Harry Reid to accomplish all that he did.”
Then, Walters went on to add that Reid “appreciated and empathized with people from all walks of life.” As such, the airport renaming will be a “fitting tribute that visitors to our great city and state will be reminded of that legacy when they travel here.”
The Effort to Rename McCarran: Gathering Private Contributions
Of course, Walters was far from being alone in his belief that the McCarran International Airport is due for a new name, one that better reflects the beliefs and integrity of Las Vegas residents.
Earlier in 2021, the Clark County Commission voted to rename the airport. Unsurprisingly, it was unanimous. They decided that Reid would be a fitting individual to draw the new name from, given his status as Nevada’s longest-serving senator. When Reid retired from office in 2017, he’d been serving for three decades.
Although Walters’ one-million-dollar donation was generous, it wasn’t all that was needed to spur the renaming process into action. As it turns out, quite a bit more is projected to be needed, to cover all the necessary expenses.
Currently, it is predicted that around seven million dollars will be needed, for all costs to be covered. Even still, it could be more. This is only the estimate, and at this early stage, it’s impossible to say the exact financial requirement.
As per the original agreement, none of this money will be coming from public funds, Instead, all the money will be coming from private donations, such as Billy Walters.’ Although the airport’s renaming is still at a relatively early stage, the process is looking promising. It seems that we’re just about set to see the McCarran International Airport receive a new name, and the generous donation of Billy Walters has played a significant role in that.